A fracture is a break in the bone. The words fracture and break are used synonymously. Toe (phalanges) fractures can occur when an unprotected foot strikes a hard object. If the toe is abnormally bent, one of the bones within the toe may break. The fracture may be displaced or dislocated (out of position). Simple fractures of the four smaller toes heal typically without a cast. Certain measures, including splinting the toe or toes together for stability of the fracture site with tape or nylon fastening (Velcro) to the adjacent toes for several weeks(buddy taping) and wearing comfortable shoes, can provide comfort and protect the toe.
Stiff-soled shoes support the fracture, and wide, soft shoes place less pressure on the swollen toe. If walking in normal shoes is too painful, the doctor can prescribe specially fabricated boots or a post-op shoe. Depending on the severity of the pain, your podiatrist may also prescribe pain medication for the first few days. A fracture of the big toe (hallux) tends to be more severe than that of the other toes, causing more intense pain, swelling, and bleeding under the skin. A big toe can break when a person stubs it or drops a heavy object onto it. Fractures that affect the joint of the big toe may require surgery.
A stress fracture of the metatarsals (the long bones in the middle of the foot) can occur when a person walks or runs excessively. Putting full weight on the foot causes increased pain. The affected area on the metatarsal bone is tender to touch, with swelling, but no bruising. It is typically painful with activity and goes away with rest. Stress fractures are small cracks on the outer lining of the bone which typically do not show up on x-ray for up to two weeks. When a developing stress fracture is recognized early, the person should stop activities that aggravate the fracture. The fracture should be treated properly to prevent a through and through break of the bone, prolonging the healing time. In more advanced and severe cases, crutches and a cast are necessary.
Without proper treatment of a fracture: